3 Questions to Ask About Any New Sales Tool

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When it comes to sales, there are two schools of thought.

One sees sales as an art, a “soft skills” competency relying heavily on intuition and experience, with the role of the salesperson one of a storyteller and a shaman, weaving a compelling narrative that entices the potential buyer in for the close.

The other school of thought sees sales as a science; a disciplined series of planned interactions that are designed to result in a close. Pipelines are monitored and planned, and statistics and prediction used to foresee the outcome—perhaps unpredictably in any given circumstance, but given the weight of statistics, inevitable in the long run. This school sees the other as a “dark art,” while the salespeople of the first school eschew this one as too mathematical (and frankly, too much hard work, entering prospect information into CRM software).

In my experience (25 years of sales, mainly in technology), I’ve seen that well-executed selling has elements of both. The discipline and clarity of a well-organized pipeline can underpin the charm and interpersonal skills of a top salesperson, resulting in a sales process that is no longer chaotic and unpredictable. Put simply, a salesperson can sell, and a manager can rest easy.

In the past few years, as with many disciplines, advances in technology are bringing new tools to bear to shine an even brighter light into the sales process. Factors that were previously unpredictable or, at least, nearly impossible to factor into the sales planning process can now be captured. Advances in data analytics, news gathering and aggregation, and machine learning can now help sales managers factor in such things as natural disasters, major sporting events, weather cycles, and seasonal patterns, helping them be even more analytical in routing calls to align with potential demand.

Similarly, the best practices of your top salespeople can be captured, codified, and shared so that others can learn the dark art of selling more quickly and effectively.

If you are considering supplementing the intuition of your salesforce with the data and insights this technology enables, here are three questions to consider:

Can the system you are looking at deliver all the up-to-date insights you need to facilitate sales? That might mean you need to look at smaller, niche players, rather than large providers. In researching this area I came across a company from New Zealand called Predict HQ; this specialist agency has software that aggregates historical scheduled and unscheduled event data (such as severe weather, public holidays, school holidays, observances, sporting events, airport delays, concerts, and natural disasters) from all over the world to understand how events will impact demand for products. The feature set and the data it considers is impressive, and the information it gathers can be easily consumed with that of other sales management systems. Another company, Signal, takes feeds from multiple social media and predicts impacts, allowing you to react quickly to fast-moving situations.

Does the technology integrate with your existing system? Cloud-based delivery for this type of system is a must-have, allowing for all the benefits of a remote system, but with good accessibility and integration. Qotient is an example of a system with a rich feature set that is easily able to be accessed and put alongside existing tools. Sales teams access the library of sales conversations in Qotient, including insights, sales questions, and supporting sales collateral to help them convert sales calls into opportunities. The platform delivers consistent messaging into the hands of salespeople anytime, anywhere. 

Are sales tools easy to use? Salespeople shouldn’t have to navigate a clunky system in order to do their jobs effectively. If they can’t work out the right way to execute a sale, they’ll use any way they can. Simple and intuitive need to be hallmarks of the sales enablement systems you put in place. Promapp is an example of a system that is designed with the user in mind; it’s a tool that ensures smooth operations through easy and user-friendly access to relevant internal protocols.

With systems like these in place, sales leaders can have the comfort that not only do they have insights into a well-functioning sales pipeline process, but also that they are sharing the insights of their best salespeople and getting external data that might impact their sales process.

Sales leaders looking at supplementing traditional techniques in this way need to keep in mind the key considerations—a rich feature set, easy integration, and an intuitive way of working. Done properly, the tools and techniques this new way of working provides users can shine a light into the dark art of selling—without turning your salespeople into mindless robots.

David Downs is a 25-year technology sector veteran. He has run sales teams in small business and large corporate settings, in a number of countries around the world. He is currently a general manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, a government organization helping growing companies internationally. He wishes these tools were around when he was on the front line, “carrying a bag.”

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